“I am disgusted when I think of a nigger’s dick inside of your vagina.”
“I don’t want my neighbors wondering and seeing my daughter’s belly growing bigger with a black baby.”
“It is okay to have black friends, but not to date one.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t raise you right; I guess I failed as a father.”
-My step-father, a racist
Racism is a choice.
In thinking about my step-dad, a racist white man from the South whose father I do believe was involved with the KKK, I think about how he tried to raise me. About how he thought black people were not equal. “It is okay to be friends with black people, but not to date them,” he said to me at age 14 when we moved from Tennessee to Florida.
This photo and the sentences quoted above depicts some of the things my step-father said to me as a child. Some people say words don’t hurt; that you have the power of whether or not to let them affect you. I disagree.
I consider the ripple effects of my step-father’s words as well as that of my equally dysfunctional and destructive mother. I think of the suicides I considered because of them. Of my home I chose to uproot myself from at age 15 when I decided I would not follow in their paths. Of the rapes I chose to accept in exchange for not going back to that hell. I consider the innocent child I gave birth to at age 17, one not born directly out of those rapes and hate, but an unfortunate ripple effect of it.
As a young child and young adult, in response to my step-father’s racism, I looked to black people for answers. Looked at them quizzically for the reasons to why my step-dad thought this way; looked for the logic in this smart, scientifically-minded man’s behaviors. I considered his upbringing and the pain and confusion he himself may have had.
But over the years, I considered mine also. I heard the pain and anguish of my own inner voice, the human that I am. I considered the effects of the trauma cruelly given to me as a child and as an adult. I, too, considered lashing out in pain and in anguish and in disgust and in hate.
But I didn’t.